The great Toronto poutine challenge: the raw food vegan poutine
What on earth is a Raw Food Vegan Poutine, and is that even possible? Well, perhaps not, but Live Food Bar at Spadina and Dupont have put together a pretty convincing imposter.
I know, I get it. No french fries? No poutine. No gravy? No poutine. No cheese curds? No poutine! But get this - it actually does look a lot like a poutine. Sure, it's not going to satiate the 3a.m. cravings for starch and fat, but there are plenty of establishments more than willing to fill that niche. This is poutine as novelty, as a conversation piece, a snack or starter to split over a cup of Reishi Blueberry Immunity Tea (only $7.50!).
Ok, so it's a novelty. But is it good? Lets find out:
Made from crunchy, crisp jicama - a tuberous root similar to a turnip. They have a cool, fresh, but neutral flavour with the consistency of an unripe pear. Again, this is a raw dish, so no cooking here, just hand-sliced jicama piled onto the plate. It's my first experience with the veggie and I'm impressed. Jicama spears would make a welcome addition to any cruditĂŠs. If there was one complaint about these "fries" it's that they weren't uniform. Some could have could have been cut to half their width, but a great ingredient nonetheless. 3/5
There were two sauces in this dish, first a miso gravy and then a secondary cashew "sour cream". Both were quite good; the miso put me off a little at first since I'm so accustomed to miso as a soup I've never really experienced the flavour cold before, but the cashew sour cream was excellent. It had a rich tangy flavour and consistency that had me doubting its vegan claims. Certainly it's no match for a good demi-glace, but it was interesting. 2/5
A herbed cashew crumble stands in for the dairy in this dish. Again, certainly not the squeaky, buttery flavour you'd look for in a poutine, but it still kind of works in the sense that it plays a similar role in the overall dish. Just as curds are those little treats you sometimes pick out with your fingers and snack on all by themselves, so are these spicy cashew clumps. They're wonderfully sweet and savory at the same time with a satisfying fattiness to them. 3/5
This would make for a great starter or a light lunch. Despite this "poutine" being essentially nothing but vegetables and nuts it's remarkably hearty, but better as a sharing dish paired with something else than a meal on its own. 3/5
Total Score: 11/20
So obviously, this is a tough one to score. How do you score a poutine that isn't a poutine in a poutine competition? A slew of "Not Applicables?" Perhaps, but that doesn't tell anyone anything. So in this case, we'll just go with the whole "is it good" approach. So, is it good? Yeah it's good. It's more of a salad than a poutine, and more of a novelty than a salad, but it's good. The jicama is great as are the cashew curds. The miso gravy is slightly less successful, but that's just my temperature bias talking.
Ultimately, this "poutine" works well as a raw food dish, but perhaps not so well as a poutine. I will say this though - visually, it's probably one of the best.
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